Chairman Matricciani began with the residency issue raised by the Waverly Improvement Association. Mr. Kim is not a Baltimore City resident, as required by Art. 2B section 9-101. Matricciani had written out his determination on the residency issue, a copy of which was entered into the record and which he read out loud. Matricciani went over the arguments on both sides, which were outlined in the Booze News post for May 19, 2016. Matricciani noted that the former rule, which required that a licensee be a resident or taxpayer of Baltimore City, conflicted with the agency’s controlling statute, which requires that a licensee be a resident and taxpayer. The Chairman said, on the other hand, that he was concerned with the implications of overturning the Board’s standing policy because of its extreme outcome. Moreover, he said, there is a case from Baltimore County that puts into question whether or not the residency requirement of Article 2B is constitutional under the U.S. and Maryland state constitutions. The Chairman said that he plans to ask the Attorney General to provide guidance on this issue and perhaps to seek legislative action to fix the issue. For those reasons, he denied the motion to dismiss the renewal application based on the residency requirement which Mr. Kim does not meet.
On the merits, Commissioner Greenfield voted to deny the renewal of the license. He said that Mr. Kim talked a lot about what he will do in the future but did not practice good faith in dealing with his neighbors. He knew that the community had significant concerns, and a couple of checks to the community association was not sufficient to address those concerns. Commissioner Moore stated that she was torn on her decision. The testimony and letters were overwhelmingly negative, and the balance of the good has not been very well demonstrated. Moore said that the MOU process was Mr. Kim’s second chance, which he did not take advantage of. Moore noted that the windows of the building are boarded up, which decreases the visibility of what is happening outside. Said Moore, there has been at least a year of opportunity to make things better, but it hasn’t happened. She concluded that “we ask communities to suffer a lot” and that, in some cases, “we’re asking too much of people.” She joined Commissioner Greenfield in his choice not to renew the license.
Chairman Matricciani had a written decision for the license renewal as well. He noted that it was not an easy case. The protest is supported by neighborhood associations, including those representing Waverly and Guilford; the license is supported by local business people and patrons. He noted the troubled history of the bar, including the 2015 suspension and reopening. Matricciani stated that the licensee had offered some explanations and done some renovations, but that he had missed the point. The Chairman said that the problems are typical of a package goods and lounge establishment in a busy urban neighborhood but that they were not being addressed adequately to protect the public health and safety of the community. In his judgment, the issues that Patricia Taylor, former WIA president, raised in her testimony, are not impossible to resolve. They included: (1) trash cleanup, (2) early hours when schoolchildren pass by, (3) drunken patrons on the outside of the bar, and (4) boarded windows. Matricciani voted to renew the license, but he said that if he had been in the majority, he would instruct the Board’s counsel to file a contempt motion, due to Mr. Kim’s failure to come to an agreement with the community association, which he interpreted the consent judgment to require.
|Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed
Constitutionality of Baltimore City residency requirement: On July 1, 2016, the Chairman of the BLLC asked the Attorney General’s office whether the residency requirement is constitutional under Verzi v. Baltimore County, a 1994 case. The case held that, if there is no non-economic basis for issuing licenses based on residency, the statute is unconstitutional. If, however, there is a rational relationship to a legitimate noneconomic objective, the statute is upheld. In Verzi, the law required that towing companies have a business address within the county to be granted a towing license in that county. The court concluded that, because they could find no rational basis for the law, the distinction was “intended to confer the monopoly of a private business upon residents of the [county].” It is a matter of debate whether a Court would find that the Baltimore City residency requirement is merely intended to confer a monopoly on Baltimore City residents or whether it has some other noneconomic rational basis.
Constitutionality of Baltimore City voter registration requirement: In a 2013 case, Yim v. Tuzeer, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals noted that the voter registration requirement for licensees may be unconstitutional, as applied to noncitizens, but the court avoided deciding that issue directly. The BLLC has enforced the voter registration provision haphazardly, if at all, and has no written policy on its opinion of the law’s constitutionality, either broadly or as applied to noncitizens. The agency must decide what its interpretation of the law is, reduce it to writing, and then apply it consistently to all.